Brown-tail moth caterpillars warning issued to Islanders

Sightings of Brown-tail moth caterpillars at Ventnor have been reported.

The council is warning against handling the creatures, whose hairs can break off as barbs, potentially causing skin irritation and breathing difficulties.

“Once again this year, with the annual influx of the brown-tail moth caterpillar, I would remind the public to avoid handling them, as they can cause skin and eye irritation, especially in children,” said Lee Matthews, recreation and public spaces manager at Isle of Wight Council.

“We are working closely with Ventnor Town council and local businesses to manage this year’s influx but if you are unlucky enough to have handled the caterpillars, you may experience a rash together with irritation similar to a severe nettle rash. As hairs can become airborne some people may experience symptoms affecting their eyes and breathing similar to hay fever symptoms.”

Normally this will give a few hours of localised discomfort. Washing the affected area with water and the application of calamine lotion on the skin may ease the itching. The hairs may also worsen symptoms of asthma for some people.

You should seek medical advice from your pharmacist or GP if symptoms do not settle down within a few hours.

The caterpillars become active in the spring. During March, caterpillars can be found in their winter tents. By April the caterpillars begin to emerge en masse from their tents and start to feed.

They gradually move further away from their winter tents during May until they become solitary. After spinning a cocoon and pupating, the adult moths emerge in July/August, ready to mate. Following this, females lay eggs near the tip of shrub branches, before spinning a tent at the end of the shoots in readiness for winter.